How Many People Have Died From Hippos?

February 8, 2024

As big as a bus and weighing up to four tons, hippos may look benign enough. But they're ferocious beasts that can crush a man and kill him with one blow, National Geographic reports. They're the third-largest land mammals and are semi-aquatic, spending most of the day submerged in river mud before coming to shore at dusk to graze on grass and other vegetation. They're aggressive in defending their territory, and at 115 decibels (that's the loudness of speakers at a rock concert), their roars can be deafening. That's why hippo attacks are often fatal, with victims being drowned or bitten/tusked or crushed to death.

Many media outlets, including National Geographic, estimate hippos kill around 500 people a year in Africa. Those figures include incidents ranging from the animals charging and capizing boats to direct attacks. They're prone to eat any animal they perceive as a threat, including cattle grazing near their water territory or people standing on the banks of a river or lake. They can also suck up humans underwater and drown them.

Colombian biologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martinez says a growing hippo population in the country's Magdalena River is causing ecological problems. Its massive poop pollutes the water, killing fish and poisoning the land that surrounds the river, she says. Unlike some other wild animals, hippos have no natural predators in Colombia and are reproducing at an alarming rate. She believes the population will explode to 1,400 hippopotamuses within 20 years if nothing is done to control them.


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